The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

December 11, 2023

Around this time of the year, I hear a prevalent theme in the shares of the halls of AA:

“Well, I went home for (fill in the holiday) and I am SO glad to be back here with you all.”

I don’t mean for this to be offensive to the families of recovering addicts and alcoholics. It’s for educational purposes that I share this with you. 

The holidays are a hard time for many, especially those with alcohol and drug addictions and those in early recovery. 

But let’s be real—it’s also a very hard time for families of those in active addiction and those in recovery.

At this time of year, we find ourselves in the middle of what we in recovery refer to as the Trifecta — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. The discomfort during this time of the year is amplified.

For people in recovery, this discomfort usually stems from 

  • shame;
  • guilt;
  • lots and lots of alcohol;
  • and being around people we love, but who we know we have hurt, and who don’t really understand us.

It takes a long time, after putting down the substance, to feel comfortable in our own skin. Keep in mind, we were drinking/drugging to self-medicate how we feel on the inside, so just stopping the substance doesn’t make us better.

With our peers we feel understood. It’s hard to feel judged by someone who is just like you. As a community we practice putting our feelings, our messes, all the uncomfortable stuff—i.e., the elephants in the room—out there in the open.

But when we’re around family, especially those not in any type of recovery, that openness and honesty found in recovery halls isn’t often there, and we find ourselves feeling full of shame and guilt instead. 

And that’s damn uncomfortable.

It’s like we’ve learned a new language and it’s not the language being spoken at home. 

I remember going home for Christmas the first year I got sober. My family drank wine at all family functions, and that year no one was drinking. Which felt very weird to me.

It was AWKWARD. I felt responsible for everyone not being able to drink.

I know why they were doing it—to support me. But at two months sober I was feeling ultra sensitive, and it actually felt hypocritical that no one was doing (or talking about) the thing that they always used to do.

The next day, I went to my meeting and I couldn’t wait to complain about my family and how they didn’t drink. Until the man next to me got up to share first, and he said, “So I went home for Christmas and my family was hammered.”


It hit me like a ton of bricks. 

My family is damned if they do, damned if they don’t! My family was lovingly wanting to support me, and they thought abstaining was the best way to do that.

That’s the psyche of a recently sober person. You really can’t win.

You might be feeling some of this pressure of how to handle the holidays with your loved one, and I just want you to know that you’re not alone

Should we drink?

Should we not drink?

Should we talk about it or not talk about it?

It’s so hard to know what to do, and there’s no one right answer. It’s okay to pause and give yourself time to get the reinforcements you need to get through this. 

  • Post in our Friends of Tipping Point Facebook community when you need support.
  • Join us on Thursdays for our online Double Circle Meeting.
  • Attend Al-Anon and open AA meetings (around holidays there are often 24-hour meetings called Alcathons you can look up in your area).
  • Step away from your family gathering (maybe go into the bathroom or take a walk outside) and take a few deep breaths.
  • Find a quiet place to drop to your knees (actually do it!) and ask your higher power, whatever that may be, for the help you need.

If you’re looking for more resources, our Stop the Chaos introductory training is a great place to start.

And remember, whether it’s the holidays or not, you still get to take things one day at a time.

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1 Comment

  1. Bonnie

    Love you Kate.. you always know what to say and when we need it most.


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